Poll shows Utahns are concerned about ethics in politics

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Utah voters are sticklers about ethical behavior this election year, that's according to a new Dan Jones poll for KSL and the Deseret News. Our poll reflects strong feelings on the topic, based on the recent allegations that led to the resignation of legislator Mark Walker.

Walker denies he did anything wrong, but he resigned anyway, saying there was too much pressure on him just based on the allegation. Our question was: Are voters just as sensitive when it comes to ethics?

There were two Republican candidates for Utah State Treasurer. One, Richard Ellis, said the other, Mark Walker, offered him a huge raise to drop out of the race. An ethics committee hearing was stopped short when Walker resigned his seat in the Utah House because pressure was taking a toll on his family.

It's been big news for reporters, but are voters following it? According to a Dan Jones flash poll, they are. Of the 309 people surveyed statewide, 13 percent say they're very familiar, and 54 percent say somewhat familiar with the Walker story.

Walker denies he offered Ellis the raise, but Ellis' allegation begs a question: If the offer happened, is it wrong? A whopping 92 percent say yes, such an offer would be unethical.

Even though Walker's resignation legally ends the Legislature's investigation, independent attorneys are investigating in Weber and Davis counties. Most in our survey are supportive: 72 percent say they want to know more about what happened and who else may be involved. Eighty-two percent say it is, in fact, important to find out if other legislators might be involved.

And, since this is an election year, we asked for the bottom line: Would you vote against an incumbent who you feel violated ethical boundaries? Ninety-one percent say they would vote that person out.

Kirk Jowers, with the Hinckley Institute of Politics, said, "There's always been this kind of general opinion that maybe our ethics laws could be a little stronger, but not enough to motivate them. It seems to me we're reaching a tipping point where people want something more."

At the same time, our poll is split about whether they think Utah lawmakers take ethics seriously enough, 47 percent say yes, 48 percent say no.

Again, it's worth pointing out that no one has proved anything did go wrong in the treasurer's race. But there's been enough smoke generated over it that a lot of people are wondering if there is in fact a fire.

E-mail: rpiatt@ksl.com

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